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People in their 40s set to get choice of AstraZeneca and J&J, or wait for mRNA vaccine

The HSE’s Colm Henry said the latest vaccine administration advice was received over the weekend.

Image: Shutterstock

Updated May 17th 2021, 1:00 PM

THE HSE HAS received information that the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has considered using the AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines in people aged 40-49, with strict conditions attached. 

People aged in their 40s are expected to be given the option of receiving an AstraZeneca or J&J vaccine, or wait for an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), The Journal understands.

The HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said the latest vaccine administration advice was received over the weekend, and will now be assessed and considered as part of the national rollout. 

“We received some information over the weekend indicating the line of thinking of NIAC, as it was relayed by the CMO [Dr Tony Holohan] to the Minister of Health [Stephen Donnelly], and that certainly shows that NIAC certainly considered the administration of these vector vaccines – the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson – to 40-49-year-olds with some conditions attached,” he said speaking to Newstalk’s The Pat Kenny Show

“We have to go through those, and they include ensuring that people have proper information that would involve them getting that vaccine at a quicker timescale than other vaccines, and so on.” 

The exact details of NIAC’s advice and these conditions attached have not been publicly confirmed, but senior sources say one scenario is that people aged over 40 will be offered a choice. 

Also speaking today Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the vaccine booking portal will be open for people in their 40s “by the end of the month, so within the next week or so”. 

“I saw those conflicting reports as well myself, I’m not sure if there’s been a change or exactly what the state of play is. I won’t give you an answer until I’ve double checked with my team,” he said on NIAC’s advice about AstraZeneca and J&J.

“It is absolutely the case that being able to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in particular on people in their 40s would be really helpful because we’re going to have a lot of that arriving in June.”

The Taoiseach Micheál Martin recently voiced his support for lowering the age limit on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to ensure no jabs go to waste. 

The HSE had also asked for “flexibility” to allow the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Janssen vaccine for people aged under 50.

NIAC had previously recommended that the Janssen and AstraZeneca jabs were not to be given to people under 50 amid concerns over links with rare blood clots.

However, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan wrote to NIAC this month asking for updated advice in relation to the use of these two vaccines.

The two-millionth dose of a Covid-19 vaccine was administered last week.

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Taoiseach defends the EU vaccine programme

Addressing the Institute of International & European Affairs (IIEA) today meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin defended the EU’s vaccine rollout, which had a stuttered start due to delayed deliveries from AstraZeneca and revised advice from the EMA on the administration of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines.

In his talk, called ‘Ireland in a Changing European Union’, Martin said 200 million doses of vaccines produced in Europe have been administered to people outside of Europe.

The EU was criticised for exporting around half of the vaccines produced within the bloc to other non-EU countries during the first quarter of the year, as its own member states were grappling with Covid-19 surges.

Brexit-related discussions ensued as the UK’s rollout continued apace; the UK and US had not been exporting vaccines produced in their jurisdictions until their own citizens are vaccinated.

“It is substance and not spin that matters,” the Taoiseach said today, adding that no other major vaccine producer in the world has exported as many vaccine doses as the EU has, and that Ireland wouldn’t have had access to the vaccines it did without its EU membership. 

With reporting from Cónal Thomas and Gráinne Ní Aodha

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